HR Champions: Piyush Gupta on finding hidden expertise


  • Title: CEO, DBS Bank
  • Office headquarters: Singapore
  • Company operations: Southeast Asia, South Asia, and China
  • Industry: Banking
  • Employees: 36,000 

Piyush Gupta has had his fair share of regrets and realisations over his 40-year career, including 13 years as the bank’s CEO. He does not shy away from sharing them as lessons. One of these is the value of community. Having spent his 20s and 30s “consumed with work” (in his own words), he learned in later years to value his own interests and having a community, saying that these are what anchor a person and keep them grounded.

This retrospection is rooted in his firm belief that one will never improve without first acknowledging the need to improve. During Covid-19, Gupta was quick to embrace the new normal with an aggressive upskilling agenda and by accommodating flexible work arrangements. These included part-time work and a job-sharing scheme, where two employees shared the responsibilities of one full-time role without any deductions to medical and insurance benefits. He was intent on future-proofing the bank’s workforce and driving up collaboration, especially during such a trying period. Gupta was also among the most visible CEOs during the pandemic, according to CARMA ASIA’s 2020 CEO Brand Report, keeping up frequent communication to help maintain company morale.

Respect and inclusivity also form the bulwark of the company’s workplace. DBS is the only Southeast Asian name that has been on the Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index (GEI) for five years running, embracing gender, generational, and cultural diversity in addition to a range of flexible work options.

Passionate about horizontal leadership, Gupta drives the importance of giving up one’s ego. In a NUSS “Inconvenient Questions” interview some years ago, he said: “Sometimes, knowledge, experts, and expertise reside in the most unimaginable of places, the junior-most people. You have to be willing to accept that.” He said it is important to give a voice to workers across all levels of an organisation, and provide avenues for them to make an impact. 

Bold and compassionate; proven resilient and intensely mindful of their own humanness, these HR Champions are being revealed one-by-one. The full report, featuring all 15 Champions, is now available for subscriber download.

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Chief of Staff Asia